Karachi, 1862: Five sisters in voluminous
black habits survey the land on which they are to set up their mission. The
population consisted of 60,000, and was concentrated mainly in the cantonment
and the city, so they thought this expansive plot of land was the ideal place to
set up a school. What started out as a white stone church, which was often
crowded to the doors, has now grown into extensive buildings of golden sandstone
and lush greenery.
Thus on March 13th 1862, the five Daughters of the Cross first set
foot on the soil of Sind, and immediately began their apostolate to the people
In 1862, Karachi was a city of about 60 000 inhabitants, but
already counted about 5000 Catholics. The Sisters dedicated themselves to
working for the salvation of souls in this corner of the Lord 's Vineyard. We
give a contemporary account of the Sisters' arrival:
"They were received in Karachi by the Reverend Fathers, with all attention and charity. The inhabitants assembled for the occasion and showed every mark of respect and satisfaction, mingled with curiosity, which was quite natural in a place where they had never before seen Sisters."
His Lordship the Bishop himself led the Sisters to the house made ready for them by the good Fathers, who had deprived themselves of necessaries for the sake of the Sisters"
On March 18th, school began with ten pupils, "one of whom could write with ink": Slowly the number of pupils increased, and December saw the first distribution of prizes. The first Government grant-in-aid was received in June 1863, Rs. 50 per month. A new building was begun in the same year, and inside the foundation stone was placed an elaborate inscription. It expressed the fervent hope that the building raised above it "might be the home whence true piety, good morals and sound learning may be diffused throughout this town and the Province of Sind".
1863 saw the arrival of a second batch of Sisters, among them Sister Clarissa
who was to spend herself in Karachi for over thirty years and whose remains rest
in the local cemetery. Another notable pioneer was Sister Lousia, the only
English Sister of the group and a convert from Protestantism.
The story of St. Joseph's school begins with the Hall. Before any other building existed on the premises, its original structure housed a chapel for the military. It was only in 1862 that a girl's school was established and in 1863 the Main School Building was commissioned for Rs. 7000.
additions were made in 1868 when plans were approved for the construction of the
upper floor for the Boarders. Many other wings were added to the Main Building
with the purpose of providing larger or more kitchens and store rooms, and
dining rooms and dormitories for the Boarders. This process continued till 1909
when the final one housing, the Art room was constructed. A swimming pool,
called the Swimming Bath that was constructed in 1914 was later filled in when
the Lourdes House was built over it in the late 50ís, as there was a great
influx of students after Independence and the school needed expansion. The
Loretto House (mainly a conversion and reconstruction of Godowns and Storerooms)
and Clinic (now the School
infirmary, or popularly known as the "sick room") was built in the
60's and the Marie Therese House and Primary School building in the 70's.
In 1875, Sisters and boarders for the first time spent their
holidays at Clifton. In 1880, the Convent was honored by a visit from the
Catholic Viceroy, Lord Ripon. After the building of the new St. Patrick 's
Church, the convent acquired the use of the old Church, which was rebuilt into
the present Hall, with a built-in stage.
The year 1901 saw the building of the present building of the
Convent Chapel, with classrooms below. Sad to relate, the roof of this new
building was torn off six months later in a violent cyclone, which swept over
In 1911, St. Patrick 's and St. Joseph 's kept their Golden Jubilee
with a combined P.T. display, and the production of a drama, William Tell, in
the G.P. Hall.
During 1911, five pupils, Ethel Raymond, Annie Rodrigues, Eugene
Nunes, Mary Lastellino and Mary D'Souza appeared for the Matriculation
Examination, and all passed. Ethel Raymond, afterwards Sister Vincent Mary, F.C.
, passed second in Sind and won a scholarship.
And so the modest chronicle continues, covering the harrowing years
of the First World War, the epidemic of influenza of 1918, the creation of
Pakistan. Mention must be made of the services rendered by the Sisters to the
plague-stricken, when this fell disease came to Karachi in 1896.
With the creation of Pakistan, a new challenge was thrown to the
Sisters. People from India streamed into the city, and every new citizen went in
search of a school for their displaced children. All schools responded
generously, and stretched their capacity to the utmost. Today the school has
about 2000 pupils on its rolls, with many lay teachers on the staff. The local
Sisters of the Congregation on the apostolate of education as devotedly and
efficiently as their foreign predecessors of old. The school enjoys a good
reputation and is much in demand among the citizens of Karachi. In 1958 the
swimming pool was closed and transformed into Lourdes House providing new
classrooms for the ever growing school population.
In 1965, a part of the garden was transformed into the
present Primary Block, still in the process of stretching upwards to meet the
incessant demand for admission to St. Joseph 's Convent School.